Rasheed now leaning to NFL?

Linebacker Saleem Rasheed may elect to forego his final year of football eligibility at Alabama and enter the National Football League draft, ‘BAMA has learned. Rasheed must declare Friday if he wants to enter the draft.

Two days ago everyone in the Alabama camp was confident Rasheed had come to the conclusion that he was not likely to be a high-round draft choice. In fact, Tide Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush told ‘BAMA Wednesday that "So far as I know right now, we're counting on all of (our players) coming back." And, that "Our goal--my goal for him right now is to get himself in the position where he'll be a first-round draft choice next year (for the 2003 draft)."

Though they have been entirely supportive of his decision throughout the process, clearly the Tide coaches expected Rasheed to return for his final season of eligibility.

On track to graduate this fall, Rasheed has long considered the possibility of leaving after his junior season.

Having started since his first game as a true freshman, Rasheed currently stands seventh among Alabama's all-time tacklers, only 57 stops behind No. 1 Wayne Davis (1983-'86).

After earning Freshman All-SEC and SEC Freshman Defensive Player of the Year honors his first year of college football, Rasheed was voted a Playboy All-American before the 2000 season. He achieved All-SEC recognition following both his sophomore and junior years.

Professional football sources say that Rasheed is likely to be no better than a fourth- or fifth-round pick if he comes out this year.

Late in the 2001 football season, Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione invited the legendary Gil Brandt, longtime talent scout for the Dallas Cowboys, to discuss the draft with Alabama underclassmen. Brandt told the players -- notably Rasheed and defensive end Kindal Moorehead -- they should not enter the draft unless they are sure they will be a high draft choice.

As an example, he pointed to former TCU tailback Ladanian Tomlinson. Brandt told the players that Tomlinson would have been a fifth round choice after his junior year and that he was the fifth player taken after his senior year. The difference was Tomlinson received many millions of dollars by completing his college eligibility.

Reliable reports Thursday night said that Rasheed may have been influenced by family members to enter the draft this year. Rasheed is expected to meet with Franchione Friday before making his final decision known.

Rasheed is an excellent student who could complete his degree requirements by the end of next summer. Prior to the Auburn game this season, his teammates voted him one of five permanent captains.

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